As far as pie making goes, I still consider myself in the “novice” stage. However, I have acquired a few tricks, of which I’d love to share with you now, that make me quite confident I’ll be moving up to the “skilled” pie maker level after a few more rounds of trial and error while tampering with recipes. For any beginners out there interested in making pies, let me tell you the most helpful factor I’ve learned in making a successful crust – cold. Unlike other baking norms, like say for cookies where room temperature butter is important, keep your butter cold. Put your bag of flour in the freezer for a bit before beginning.
And, you can even opt for a nice heavy marble rolling pin that will hold its chill while you roll out the dough. When working with pie dough, it gets quite sticky as it warms, and the more you work with it, the warmer it gets. Of course you could chill your rolling pin in the fridge or freezer, but mine at home sits on my kitchen windowsill.
On one of those very first sunshiny, brisk spring mornings of the season, two things happened that set me up for absolute pie crust success. One, I was finally able to open the kitchen window for fresh air. Two, a recipe for hand pies scrolled across my Facebook news feed (thank you justataste.com!). With a large board set over my sink for plenty of rolling space, the cool spring air blowing directly on my work space not only kept my rolling pin cold, but my dough as I worked with it as well! It became incredibly easy to take my sweet time as I rolled, cut, filled, and prepared each and every little handful of personal pie bliss!
I urge you to try my kitchen window technique before summer arrives. With a marble rolling pin in hand, check out the Strawberry Nutella Hand Pie recipe from justataste.com below. Though any piecrust, whether it be for a whole pie or hand pies, would be great in a cool room. You may notice their recipe is topped with crystal sanding sugar, which I didn’t have but substituted powdered sugar instead. I might point out that I also couldn’t have had such an easy time making my hand pies if it weren’t for my Norpro board scraper, Silpat mat, and round fluted cutters!
Strawberry Nutella Hand Pies
Yield: Makes 10 (3-inch) hand pies
Prep Time: 1 hour (includes chilling)
Cook Time: 15 min
For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup cold sour cream
For the filling:
3/4 cup Nutella
2 cups diced strawberries
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg
Crystal sanding sugar (optional)
Make the dough:
- Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
- Add the cubed butter to the bowl and use your fingers to work the butter into the flour until the mixture is the consistency of wet sand.
- Stir in the sour cream (the dough will be very wet), and then turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface.
- Knead the dough a few times until it comes together, adding more flour, 1 teaspoon at a time, if the dough is too sticky to handle. Roll the dough into an 8×10-inch rectangle and dust both sides with flour before folding it into thirds as if you were folding a letter.
- Rotate the dough 90º and roll it out again into an 8×10-inch rectangle. Fold the dough again into thirds then wrap it securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes while you make the filling.
Make the filling:
- In a small bowl, combine the diced strawberries with the flour, tossing to combine. Set aside.
Assemble the pies:
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unfold it onto a well-floured surface, rolling it out to a 14×14-inch square.
- Using a 3-inch circular cookie cutter or cup, cut out as many circles as possible. Re-roll the scraps and continue cutting out circles until you run out of dough, ensuring you end up with an even number of circles. (You should have approximately 20 3-inch circles.)
- Place six of the dough circles on a Silpat or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Spread a portion of the Nutella in the centers of half of the dough circles leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edges.
- Spoon a small portion of the strawberries atop the Nutella. Place a second dough circle atop each filled circle then use a fork to crimp the edges together, sealing each pie.
- Whisk together the egg with the water to make an egg wash. Brush each pie with the egg wash, and using a sharp knife, cut two or three vents on the top of each pie. Sprinkle the pies with crystal sanding sugar (optional).
- Bake the pies for about 15 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.
- Remove the pies from the oven and allow them to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Repeat the filling and baking process with the remaining dough circles.